1985 - Volume #9, Issue #5, Page #05[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Relief for diesel lemon ownersHundreds of owners of "lemon" diesel cars and trucks have won damage awards ù or have even had their problem cars repurchased ù thanks to several class action lawsuits and the activities of "watchdog" groups around the country that have successfully negotiated settlements with General Motors for their members.
GM's diesel engine troubles began back in 1976 when the company first installed a 350 cu. ft. diesel engine in various models of their cars and trucks. The engine, which many mechanics contend is simply a rebuilt 350 cu. in. gas engine, soon began to cause problems. In 1980, the Federal Trade Commission issued a complaint against GM, charging that three components in the diesel cars and trucks ù the transmission, camshaft and fuel-injection system were faulty. After extended negotiations, GM agreed to set up a customer arbitration program to handle complaints.
Administered by the Better Business Bureau, the program has been in operation for the past couple years. Any owner of a GM diesel can go to arbitration ù no matter when repairs were made, and no matter the age or mileage of the car ù even if they aren't the original owner. Hundreds of diesel car and truck owners have settled under the program, receiving part or all of the costs of specific repairs. In many situations, GM has repurchased defective vehicles for the original purchase price.
Problems with the BBB arbitration program have cropped up recently, however. According to recent reports, there is a huge backlog of unresolved cases as well as complaints about the difficulty in getting arbitrators to visit smaller communities. As a result, many disgruntled consumers have turned to independent groups (like those detailed below) to obtain settlements.
For more information, contact a local Better Business Bureau office or call toll-free 800 228-6505 or 703 276-0100.
In addition to the government's agreement, many independently formed private groups have been able to mount successful campaigns against GM. Usually the groups were started by one or two individuals angry over problems with their own defective car or truck. After banding together with other owners, many groups now number several thousand members. They operate under names like "Lemons On Wheels", "Consumers Against GM", "Dissatisfied Owners of General Motors Automotive Diesels (DOGMAD)", and "Disgruntled Diesel Owners Group". Some of the groups settled class action lawsuits and subsequently disbanded while others are still in operation, settling cases one by one. They charge a minimum membership fee that covers the cost of providing a dissatisfied owner with the information needed to pursue a claim against GM.
Disgruntled Diesel Owners Group in Vienna, Va., was started several years ago by Joyce Arndt who owned a lemon Chevrolet pickup with a 6.2 L diesel. Her group has grown to more than 8,000 members and to date has settled claims worth more than $6,000,000 for more than 6,700 owners. That doesn't include the cost of many "freebee" repairs and parts. Here, according to Arndt is how the group operates:
A disgruntled owner sends in a membership fee of $20 (which can increase to a maximum of $55 if the case requires extra personal attention) and fills out a data sheet detailing his problem. This case history is then submitted to GM and a settlement offer is made to the owner, based on past settlements with other members of the group. Officers of the group then review the decision and advise the owner as to whether or not he should accept. Settlements have so far ranged from a couple hundred dollars for miscellaneous repairs to over $30,000 to one individual who owned several lemons. Any car or pickup with a diesel engine is eligible for settlement. In some cases, owners have received settlements for legal bills, car rental, lost wages and so on.
For more information, contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Disgruntled Diesel Owners Group, 316 Dominion Road, Vienna, Va. 22180 (ph 703 281-1601). Or, contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Consumers Against General Motors, 2442 N.W. Market St., Suite 88, Seattle, Wa. 98107 (
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